Resiliency, consistency helps deliver Will Power his elusive first IndyCar title

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In a Verizon IndyCar Series paddock that features some great personalities – even if they’re more reserved and mild-mannered on camera than they are once you get to know them as the circus travels cross-country week-to-week – Will Power stands out as much for his quirks as his on-track prowess.

Until Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway though, misperceptions of Power included being known more as “the double bird guy,” “that guy with the funny name” and “the non-oval driver.”

But there was a serious word that Power needed to shake from the arsenal, or the narrative, and it wasn’t going to leave until he finally bagged that elusive first championship: choking.

That overlooks another, less discussed word that has actually been a greater hallmark and tendency throughout his racing career: resiliency.

Power was a then-unheralded driver from the World Series by Renault ranks when he made his first Champ Car start in a third Aussie Vineyards-backed entry for Derrick Walker at his home race, Surfers’ Paradise in 2005.

As he grew throughout 2006 and 2007, and won his first two races in the latter season, Power lost his ride as the Champ Car-IndyCar merger occurred. The sponsor shifted to KV Racing and when Walker’s team didn’t make it into IndyCar, Power moved over to KV.

He stood at another crossroads in 2009 when the sponsor departed altogether, but found a new chance with Team Penske first as a fill-in for Helio Castroneves and then in a part-time third car. Power maximized his opportunity with a pole and podium at Long Beach, his first race with Verizon Wireless on the car, then fifth at the Indianapolis 500 and a win in Edmonton.

He hit another setback. He suffered two fractured vertebrae and a concussion in a practice accident at Sonoma, but Power wasn’t knocked down. He was rewarded with a third full-time entry to Team Penske in 2010, fully backed by Verizon, and with an opportunity to ascend within the Penske hierarchy.

Yes, he missed out on championships in each of 2010, 2011 and 2012, all in dramatic and fairly unfortunate circumstances.

Still, it spoke volumes of how fast and talented he was that he’d consistently put himself in position to win the title in the first place. He just needed to become a bit more well-rounded. Sooner or later, the breaks had to go his way.

He survived an up-and-down 2013 that ended with more ups, particularly his 2013 Fontana race win, with a return for the go-for-broke style that served him well instead of a more cautious approach.

“Yeah, I think the fact that I wasn’t in the championship chase made me realize how aggressive I truly could be,” Power said Saturday night, when reflecting on last year.

“And I got back to how I raced when I was young which is attack, not be conservative. I think the three championships we lost was me kind of on being conservative in certain situations.

“And now I just feel like I’ve raced naturally. And it was a change, just because I was put in the position not to protect the points lead.”

He’s raced naturally in 2014, but again, he’s been resilient throughout the year.

This was a point illustrated by NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell in Saturday night’s pre-race show. In-season, Power made several mistakes, and accrued several penalties, but managed to turn something out of all of them.

At Barber, he went off course on a damp track early and lost the lead. He still ended fifth. He hit pit equipment at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and was eighth. He sped in the pits in the Indianapolis 500… and again was eighth.

Despite his first lap contact with several cars in Detroit race two, he was still second. There was another pit road speeding penalty at Texas, and again, a rebound to second.

The Pocono block netted his worst finish in this run of 10th. Toronto race one, he spun in the rain, but due to fortuitous circumstances of the race date changing and his crew’s rebuild, he still ended ninth. Even at Sonoma, he recovered from his spin to 10th.

In no instant did the crazy-eyed Aussie lose it on track to where he took himself out of the race. He finished in the top-10 despite every one of those setbacks; on the whole, he only failed to complete one lap this season. That consistency spoke volumes about how well-rounded he’d become as a whole this year.

And of course, the last three weeks of the year encapsulated Will Power’s career in a nutshell.

There was the crushing dominance at Milwaukee. Then setback at Sonoma.

But this time, finally, there was resilience rather than defeat in the season finale.

“Yeah, it hasn’t sunk in that I’ve actually finally won the championship. I got a lot of questions before the race. And I just try to keep everything else out,” he said in the Fontana press conference.

“It was kind of weird. Didn’t even think about the process of the race or anything. Just was two weeks of not much sleep and stress and all that sort of stuff. Keeping my wife up at night. And just when I got in that race car just kept my mind on the job, focused and this is the result.”

The win allowed the other thing Power’s known for – his quirks – to shine through during an epic, off-the-wall, completely scatterbrained and simply perfect championship speech during the IndyCar championship celebration Sunday night.

Let’s face it. If anyone other than Power had lost his place in the speech, joking about Verizon, asking the teleprompter guy to scroll up or down, or forget his wife, Liz, you’d think they were a nutcase who shouldn’t be up there in the first place.

But because it was Will, it was so fitting, and just the right tone to cap off the 2014 season.

One where Power’s resiliency ended the choking narrative, on the way to his first series championship.

F1 2017 pre-season test dates confirmed

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 18:  (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using a variable planed lens) Sparks fly as Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing overtakes Jordan King of Great Britain and Manor Racing during day two of formula one testing at Circuit de Catalunya on May 18, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has officially confirmed the dates for Formula 1’s pre-season tests in 2017.

Pre-season testing has traditionally been held in Barcelona, but a number of teams were pushing to move it to Bahrain ahead of the 2017 season.

However, after teams failed to achieve unanimity, the decision was taken to keep testing in Barcelona ahead of the 2017 season.

While the dates for pre-season testing were widely reported and known, the track has now officially confirmed when it will host running.

The first four-day test will begin on February 27 and run to March 2, before a four-day break.

The second four-day test will begin on March 7 and finish on March 10.

Testing in Barcelona will provide a first glimpse of the revised F1 cars on-track together in 2017, with the technical regulations being overhauled for the new season.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will also play host to the Spanish Grand Prix from May 12-14 2017.


1. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – February 27 – March 2
2. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – March 7-10

In-season (TBC)
1. Bahrain International Circuit – April 18-19
2. Silverstone – July 11-12

Vasseur expected more from Magnussen, Palmer in Austin

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 21: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS16 Renault RE16 turbo on track during practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Renault Formula 1 chief Frederic Vasseur says he expected better from drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer in last weekend’s United States Grand Prix as both finished outside of the top 10.

Since returning to F1 as a constructor at the beginning of 2016, Renault has struggled for form, finishing in the points on just three occasions.

Magnussen recorded the team’s best result of the season so far in May’s Russian Grand Prix, crossing the line seventh, but did not return to the top 10 until the Singapore Grand Prix in September.

Palmer has just one top-10 to his name through his rookie F1 season, finishing P10 in Malaysia.

With a handful of drivers further up the field retiring in Austin last weekend, points were within reach for Magnussen and Palmer.

Magnussen could only finish 11th at the flag, but was demoted to 12th after being penalized for passing Daniil Kvyat off-track. Palmer finished 13th.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, Renault F1 boss Vasseur admitted he felt disappointed by the team’s display in Austin.

“We showed a decent performance but my expectations are high and I know better was possible,” Vasseur said.

“There were areas where we had issues and neither driver drove a perfect race.

“I really want to see us collectively maximizing every opportunity in every regard for the next three races.

“Next year we clearly should have a more competitive car. This year is about getting to a place where we are confident to maximize our potential.”

Both Magnussen and Palmer are currently fighting for their future, with Renault already confirming the arrival of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg for 2017.

Manor driver Esteban Ocon has been strongly linked with the second seat, meaning that both Magnussen and Palmer may be without a drive for 2017 should Renault decide on a total change of its line-up.

Ecclestone suggests ‘a bit of showbiz’ surrounding accidents in F1

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone walks on the grid before the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone suggests there should be “a bit of showbiz” surrounding accidents in the sport, as well as saying he would like to build more walls on corners to increase the risk factor for drivers.

Ecclestone, 85, raised the idea when speaking to journalists in Austin, Texas last weekend at the United States Grand Prix.

More and more circuits have ditched gravel traps on the outside of corners in favor of extended tarmac run-off areas.

Despite offering improved safety, the tarmac run-off does encourage drivers to extend the limits of the track more, leading to a possible abuse of the confines of the circuit.

Ecclestone is quoted by Reuters as calling for greater risk in F1, with reference to the improvement in safety standards through the sport’s history.

“In those days, and it can’t happen again, people would come to a race and think somebody could get killed,” Ecclestone said.

“Today they know they come to a race and nobody is going to get killed, which is good.

“I’ve been criticized probably by everybody because I wanted to build 40 cm walls around the corners. They keep saying they mustn’t go off the road; I promise they won’t.”

Ecclestone also said there should be “a bit of showbiz” surrounding accidents in F1 that would leave fans uncertain of the condition of the driver, before referring to Fernando Alonso’s high-speed crash in March’s Australian Grand Prix.

“What Fernando had in Australia… You wouldn’t think he was going to walk away,” Ecclestone said.

“What we ought to do immediately that happens is have big sheets all the way around, bring the ambulance in and take him away.

“He’s gone to the hospital and later you announce that, thank God, he’s out.

“A bit of showbiz. People like that.”

The most recent fatality in F1 was Marussia driver Jules Bianchi, who died nine months after sustaining severe head injuries in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix when he struck a recovery vehicle in torrential rain.

Tost: Kvyat deserving of Toro Rosso F1 drive for 2017

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 21:  Daniil Kvyat of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Russia during practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost believes that Daniil Kvyat is deserving of his drive for the 2017 Formula 1 season, after the Russian’s future was secured last weeke in Austin.

Kvyat made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2013 before moving up to Red Bull’s senior team for the following season.

After a disastrous Russian Grand Prix in May that saw him crash into Sebastian Vettel twice, Kvyat was demoted from Red Bull back to Toro Rosso in a move designed to allow him to regain his form.

Kvyat endured a rough patch of form before appearing to find confidence following the summer break, leading to last Friday’s announcement that he would be remaining with Toro Rosso for the 2017 season.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Tost expressed his belief that Kvyat was deserving of his seat for 2017, as well as adding stability to the Toro Rosso operation.

“Red Bull decided to [announce in Austin] because we are convinced that Daniil is the right choice for 2017, and to end rumors and bring stability to the team for the last four races,” Tost said.

“Daniil deserves the drive next year, as he showed great performance in Singapore and was pretty competitive in Malaysia and Japan, with a car that has an engine on which development has stopped and which is short of 60 to 70 horsepower.”

Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly had been the only candidate to replace Kvyat for 2017, with Carlos Sainz Jr. also staying on with Toro Rosso in the second seat.

Toro Rosso currently sits seventh in the F1 constructors’ championship, having failed to stay ahead of McLaren due to the lack of development on its 2015-spec Ferrari engine.

Despite the circumstances that have perhaps limited the team’s potential in 2016, Tost admitted his disappointment when offering a review of Toro Rosso’s season.

“No it was not a good season for us. Absolutely not,” Tost said.

“It would be wrong for me to say that I am satisfied. P5 [in the constructors’] – then I would have gone home with a smile.”